As a father of three boys and an avid shooter, the question is on my mind and presents itself quite often. Many in my region are gun owners, hunters, and recreational shooters as well as active full time members of a family, raising children, and trying to pass along a quickly dying past time. As the years pass us by, the children get older and so do we. Many are unsure of when along this process is the right time to introduce these activities and firearms in general to their children. Is there a right time? Is a child capable of comprehending firearms safety and the consequences of irresponsibility? This can be a lot for a small child to shoulder and should be approached with caution.
My first question is, do children truly understand firearms in reality vs television or video games? Secondly, can they contemplate the real world consequences of mishandling or misuse of a firearm? All children are different, and determining the correct time to have these conversations with your children can be a tough situation to broach. For many these are incredibly important questions, for others they’ve never given it a thought, largely due to firearms being such a common household item in some regions. No matter what your circumstance, speaking to your children about firearms safety is one of the most important steps you can take in keeping your family safe within their own home.
How Do I Know the Right Time for My Child?
In my opinion, it all depends on the child. As a child myself, I was deeply interested in firearms, little army action figures, tanks, planes, warships, and generally anything that went boom. The problem was that I had no one around to explain them to me. I also grew up in a very restrictive household largely run by females, all of which were very anti-gun. This is not to say women are anti-gun in general, but in my household it was very frowned upon as a child and largely due to a domineering and somewhat abusive history of the males in my family, sometimes involving guns. The extent of Firearms Safety I received as a child (despite having access through friends and family) was mostly that they are bad, don’t touch them, they are only used for intimidation and murder. Before I get myself into hot water however, I can safely say, they had every right to feel the way they did, and had I lived through what they had, I may have likely had a similar (albeit possibly unrealistic for my circumstances) view of firearms. As a new generation however, and the one responsible for the generations after me, I choose to handle things in a slightly different manner.
Anyway, I digress… The main reason for my curiosity was largely due to the lack of male influence in my life as a little guy, I was constantly peaked because guns were foreign, forbidden objects that were out of reach for me (figuratively and literally!). I did not understand them and had no one to explain them to me, thus my curiosity grew implicitly. I can honestly say, had I stumbled across a loaded gun as a child with no one around, I probably would have blown a toe off or worse. I would have been that kid, another statistic for Gun Control Advocates to target due to lack of education and explanation by a parent or authority figure in my life. The irony is that, despite the best efforts to shelter me from all things that go boom, I was so curious at a young age that my lack of knowledge and guidance from an adult could have lead to very bad circumstances.
Two Sides to Every Coin
Funny thing, every situation has its opposite. As I stated I have three boys of my own. They have within their short years been largely surrounded by guns, outdoors, and camping. To them, it is run of the mill, common, natural. Last year my oldest son who is about to turn 12 walked through the garage where a friend and I had a deer hanging and we’re processing it. He didn’t even look twice. I had to stop for a minute and reflect on that… I just remembered thinking, as a child I would probably have been shocked or amazed by that. To him however, he barely looked twice. My kids could barely care less. Like many things with children, sometimes taking the mystery out of something makes them less interested in it.
Both of the boys who are old enough actively participate in shooting and fishing and will soon begin hunting. The older boy will have his first hunting season this year once he completes his hunter safety course. They constantly learn safety and no matter how proficient they believe they are, they are always guided and will continue to be corrected. As with most tools, you should maintain a healthy natural fear, and once you let go of that, accidents begin to happen. Maintaining a healthy fear and respect of a firearm is a constant point I try to I instill into them. All it takes is one accident.
Seriously Though…. When Is The Right Time?
The point I would like to make is this: It is up to the parent to determine, based upon the child, what and when the right time would be. If you were to press me for an answer however, the sooner the better. Do not allow them to learn through their own curiosity or worse yet, through a careless friend or school mate. If you simply own a gun for protection or you are an avid hunter or sportsman, Gun Safety should always be at the top of your list, especially when children are involved. Guns are exciting, they are loud, they are powerful, and they go boom. Of course children are going to be curious and a little excited. Use this to help steer them into a positive and responsible mindset in regards to firearms, helping to promote health & safety as well as practical & responsible gun ownership for the next generation.